Eliminating I-70 | VailDaily.com

Eliminating I-70

Jim Lamont

The following is the first installment of the Vail Village Homeowners Association Whitepaper: “Eliminating I-70, a Grand Vision Plan for Vail.” The full report can be obtained on the association’s Web site http://www.vailhomeowners.comThe Homeown-ers Association prepared this whitepaper report as an overview of I-70 issues confronting the community including long-term options available to significantly reduce or eliminate its negative impacts. Federal and state highway authorities, through a programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS), are investigating options that include an expansion of the interstate through parts of Vail. Conceptual Expansion Profiles Should Interstate -70 Be Expanded Through Vail (16-18 lanes replace 8-10 lanes): The very goals of the community are at risk of being lost if the expansion projected takes place. Importantly, the expansion will bring environmental deterioration, which if allowed to occur, will degrade the community’s economic sustainability beyond repair. A possible solution is to reclaim the land (550 acres) currently occupied by Interstate 70 by relocating the interstate in a bypass tunnel under Vail mountain or burying it in it present located. The vision is to reclaim the community, making it whole, joining divided neighborhoods together, opening opportunities for a quantum leap into a future bright with the prospect of societal and economic success. This land, if put to good use by the community, would result in the fulfillment of a grand vision unseen in any other resort community, making Vail the most desired and respected of all. This report considers the options of either relocating the interstate to a bypass tunnel, in which an expanded I-70 would be constructed under Vail Mountain, from a point on the west side of Vail Pass to Dowd Junction. A second option is to bury I-70 in a “cut & cover” tunnel within the interstate right-of-way through Vail. Mass transit systems discussed in the PEIS and other studies could be a component in either of the tunnel options. The construction and on-going operation of either option is proposed to be fully or significantly financed by opening the land formerly occupied by I-70 to private development.Preliminary studies conducted by qualified consultants construction costs for the by-pass at $2.4 billion and the cut & cover at $3.5 billion. These costs do not include local infrastructure improvement cost that would be required to support development on the abandoned right-of-way Studies remain to be conducted on alternative financing sources including how much private development will be required to finance tunnel construction. In any scenario, to realize such a vision, the community must consider seriously a reality, which to save itself, it must grow exponentially. The potential to plan the future development of the community upon a strategy of long-term growth opens the possibility for Vail to move beyond many of the limitations under which it now labors. The rerouting of I-70 would allow Vail new land on which to build needed community facilities, affordable housing, and expand facilities for the destination guest. Sites for many community needs are even now limited in size and availability. The interstate right-of-way is 550 acres. A minimum 150-foot right-of-way on average would need to be retained for a central boulevard and mass transit corridor. Development could occur over the right-of-way using cut & cover techniques.The value of Vail, as a financial investment and as a resort community, is totally dependent upon sustaining the quality of its natural environment and the enhancement of lifestyle assets, which the resort provides to the community’s inhabitants and guests. A dilemma is created when lifestyle and environmental assets are in conflict with the detrimental impacts from infrastructure that serves the resort or region such as a freeway, mass transportation or parking facilities. The association, in a study of European ski resorts communities found evidence that leading resorts, confronted with the same dilemma, found permanent solutions that protect the environment and culture of the entire community to the benefit all inhabitants. The community, if its success is to flourish, must rise to the challenge presented by I-70. It must apply its full resources to shaping the will of both the Federal and State government to solutions that the community believes is in its best interest. It will require innovation of design and financing, employing the considerable wealth of the community, to create an entrepreneurial approach that breaks with tradition of financing public projects. Vail is one of the few communities in the nation that can bring to bear both its financial and human resources to accomplish in the United States what have become acceptable practices in Europe. Vail as a community is now in a race against time whereby it must develop a long-term vision, plans, and strategies. Vail must set about determining its future on its own terms. The scale of the undertaking requires a compelling vision of the community’s future that is enduring for generations to come. The vision must offer possibilities to better the quality-of-life for the community as a whole and the personal lives of each individual. It must stir the imagination and will of the community to seek out leaders who will carry the vision forward through its technical complexities and political challenges. The vision must be compelling so that each generation of leadership commits to sustaining its continuity and progress. To build an enduring allegiance, the vision itself must emerge from the will and values of the community’s members and its leadership. They must be the architects of the vision. Leadership must come from the community at large. These leaders must bring to government officials, be they local or beyond, constructive proposals that motivate progress.The Vail community has thus far successfully navigated the considerable challenge of reinventing itself. It is learning the lessons necessary to confront greater challenges ahead. It is steadily mastering the skills to guide the allocation of significant sums of investment capital. It has demonstrated the ability to manage the design and construction of complex redevelopment projects. There are thoughtful people who believe, Vail is fully capable of sustaining itself through the relocation and removal of the Interstate, attaining in the process transformation to world-class stature. They point to the scope and value of the massive $1 billion redevelopment currently underway in Vail’s resort town center. They see the possibilities of achieving such an undertaking in the forecast of burgeoning worldwide lifestyle demand for quality cosmopolitan resort communities.Significant additional study is required and warranted. The long-range concept of removing or burying the Interstate should be diligently pursued so the community’s options are not lost by its own inaction. More in-depth geotechnical studies on tunnel construction and cost estimating need to be accomplished to generate a manageable range of expected tunneling costs. Interim cost effective solutions should be sought and implemented to mitigate sources of environmental pollution caused by the Interstate. Capital improvement projects should be identified and accomplished permitting the eventual elimination of the interstate. Jim Lamont, executive director of the Vail Village Homeowners Association, was the town of Vail’s first director of community development (1972-77).Vail, Colorado

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